VUT WOMEN’S MONTH 2023: INSIGHTS FROM AN OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY LEADER ON EMPOWERING WOMEN OF LASTING CHANGE
By: Themba Nyovane – 28 August 2023
In an effort to commemorate Women’s Month and acknowledge the accomplishments of women from diverse backgrounds, we had an up close and personal conversation with Mapule Mashitisho who currently holds the position of Occupational Health and Safety Manager at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT).
During the discussion, she shared her perspective on how the concept of Generation Equality has significantly shaped her understanding of gender parity and the empowerment of women. She emphasized that, “the concept recognizes the importance of not only addressing present gender disparities but also acknowledging the historical and systemic barriers that have influenced women’s rights and prospects.”
Delving into the concept of Generation Equality, Mapule underscored the pursuit of lasting transformation that can be inherited by generations to come. She expounded on the significance of collaboration and collective action, which bring together different generations, sectors, and stakeholders to advance gender equality. Additionally, she stressed the importance of considering the intersectionality of gender with factors like race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality. Recognizing these intersections, she argued, is pivotal in comprehending women’s experiences and is essential to achieving true equality.
Mapule asserted that the exercise of socio-economic rights plays a pivotal role in strengthening women’s resilience in today’s world through various avenues. One such avenue is ensuring access to decent work with equitable wages and benefits, as this is vital for women’s economic empowerment and their ability to navigate challenges. She stated that “Socio-economic rights create a platform for women to engage in the labor market on equal terms, enabling them to attain financial independence, provide for their families, and overcome economic adversities.”
However, she also acknowledged the obstacles women face in fully realizing their socio-economic rights, particularly within the workplace. “These challenges stem from gender inequality, leading to discrimination and unequal opportunities in education, employment, and decision-making processes. Such inequalities hamper women’s access to social and economic rights.”
Mapule says women have the urgency to actively pursue leadership roles and partake in decision-making across all levels of society, whether within their workplaces, community groups, or governmental bodies. By increasing women’s representation in decision-making roles, she noted, diverse viewpoints can be considered, resulting in more comprehensive policies and strategies.
She further advocated for women’s commitment to strive for gender equality and inclusivity within policies and programs. “By raising awareness about specific issues that affect women—such as pay parity, educational access, healthcare, and gender-based violence—women can play an instrumental role in driving social change and encouraging the development of more inclusive and gender-sensitive policies.”
Lastly, Mapule emphasized the need for an environment that promotes the inclusion of women’s socio-economic rights. She highlighted the importance of granting women access to resources and opportunities that enable them to ascend the corporate ladder. In this regard, she called for the establishment of inclusive policies that implement gender-responsive strategies tailored to the unique needs and challenges faced by women. Ultimately, she argued that policies should strive to bridge the gender gap and create equitable opportunities in education, employment, and entrepreneurship.